A seagull will do almost anything 
to avoid flight. 
His eighteen-month-old son in his arms 
on the beach, 
an hour past low tide, 
he entertains himself 
with such ruminations, 
then switches to description: 
Two seagulls settle 
on the sand, ten metres or so. 
Bird, the boy says. 
Hard to explain to the boy: 
On being approached, the seagulls 
would simply separate, 
walk casually, 
eyes forward 
as though not aware. 
Something here about 
energy. Or inertia. 
A wife enters the poem. 
She stands at sufficient remove 
that speaking over the surf 
is not possible, or worthwhile. 
The problem with metaphor 
is the world doesn’t care 
about your problems, 
viz. the tide. 
A seagull is willing even to run 
rather than employ its wings 
if it can get away 
with it. 
For some creatures, the whole day 
is about hunger. Which is to say 
a calculus. When it’s worth taking off, 
and for where. 
Bird. Bird. 
Hard to explain to the boy. 
The risks of closing in. 
Sometimes to have is to watch 
from a given distance. 
But this was about energy, or inertia, 
the wife looking the other way. 
Imagine a whole day 
in the service 
of appeasing hunger. 
Bird, says the boy between them, 
the day standing nearly still 
on its unflappable legs. 


Bryan Walpert is the author of the poetry collections Etymology and A History of Glass; the short story collection Ephraim’s Eyes; and the scholarly monograph Resistance to Science in Contemporary American Poetry. ‘Oakura’ is from his recently completed poetry manuscript, Native Bird, for which he is seeking a publisher. He is an Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Massey University’s School of English & Media Studies.